Automation is Anti-Social

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It’s nice to have things done for us, isn’t it? From machine-led assembly lines to paying bills and brewing coffee, automation simplifies our lives and leads to innovation. But scheduling your thermostat is one thing; scheduling a social interaction is quite another. Automation is the antithesis of authentic, human connection, so why do marketers insist on using marketing automation platforms (MAPs) to interact with consumers

Here’s why marketing automation is the little robot that shouldn’t.

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It enables bad behaviour

Let’s face it: We love automation because we’re lazy. Who doesn’t want to be able to “set-it-and-forget-it” and take a big old nap? Unfortunately, complacency doesn’t leave a lot of room for proactive or flexible messaging, which means you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to listen and build trust. In the social world, automation reduces relatable brands into auto-replying, tweet-scheduling robots. Your customers are not a rotisserie chicken, so why are you treating them like one?

Don’t be a robot. Once you’ve published an email campaign, blog or social post, you must obsessively check how your message is resonating. Keep an eye on user feedback, answer comments, pay attention to open rates and deploy some real-time testing.  

Automation breeds a laisse-faire attitude, one which doesn’t require tweaking or improving. It lets you push a button and walk away, patting yourself on the back over sales quotas, impressions or other metrics we’re not exactly fond of.

It’s a PR nightmare waiting to happen

We live in a crazy, unpredictable world. Let’s say your brand schedules a post about “blowing customers away” and then a hurricane strikes. If you’ve set-it-and-forget-it, this post will go live in the midst of a humanitarian disaster. Your brand will look thoughtless at best and downright callous at worst. Unfortunately, this sort of thing happens all the time—and as we’ve seen in the past, insensitivity is never a solid marketing strategy.

It leads to horrifying mistakes (that you can’t take back)

Posting your content in real time means you catch mistakes before they automatically happen. A final read-through can make all the difference between a thoughtful, well-crafted message and an embarrassing, viral faux-pas. We’ve seen this over and over (how many of those “Hello FIRST NAME” automated emails do we have to suffer through?) and big brands are just as guilty as the little guys. In 2017, McDonald’s clearly automated, unfinished tweet became the laughing stock of Twitter, while rival brand Wendy’s was able to take advantage of the misstep and show us how to do social right. You may also recall the horrific New England Patriots’ tweet of 2014, a result of automating their online sweepstakes winner announcement. Needless to say, the backlash was swift. Bottom line? Create, don’t automate.

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It doesn’t REALLY work

Marketing automation tools aren’t as useful as you might think. According to HubSpot, marketing automation platforms focus solely on the middle funnel, offering “no solution to generating new leads to nurture in the first place.” And isn’t that what your business’s bottom line is all about?

Four in ten marketers don’t use targeting in conjunction with automated marketing, which is equivalent to standing and screaming at people. In a similar vein, marketers love to collect huge databases (with obvious issues of database decay) and then do nothing with said databases. Automation, in theory, is great, but the human element of moving the data across the funnel is what really matters.

So is that shiny new marketing automation tool worth it? Not really. It’s all spam, no glam, and the results are a bag of mixed nuts.

We’re not saying all automation all bad or that the technology itself is terrible. As with most things, it’s about how you use it. If there's something to be said about social marketing, it’s it should be social. It should be human. Treat your interactions with customers like you would a real person. You wouldn’t automate a conversation with your friend in real life, so why are your customers any different? Do yourself and your business a favour. Listen to your audience and respond in real time. Don’t let R2D2 do it for you.